What are the expectations for the team?
Most Swedes expect the team to get out of the group.
Are there any players who have appeared in TV commercials?
Fredrik Ljungberg, of course, was the face and body of Calvin Klein underwear for over two years and is now in a Pepsi advert with Ronaldinho, Frank Lampard and Lionel Messi. Anders Svensson is nicknamed Taco-Anders by opposing fans in the Allsvenskan after being in an advert for a company selling pizza, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic is now one of Nike’s hottest properties. It is a far cry from the start of his career when he was the face of Garnier Fructis, with the slogan: “You don’t think Zlatan has dandruff, do you?”
Is the coach popular?
Lars Lagerbäck is quite popular because he has taken Sweden to five consecutive major championships but is often criticised for the team’s negative approach. Remarkable, really, considering his achievements.
Which players are good interviewees and who are the worst?
Any journalist getting more than monosyllabic replies from Tobias Linderoth will have done really well. Mikael Nilsson is quite good and Ibrahimovic can be superb or awful depending on what mood he is in.
Do any of the players have famous girlfriends or wives?
Christian Wilhelmsson’s girlfriend, Oksana Andersson, is the most famous face at the moment. The Russian-Swedish model writes a blog about the couple’s life in Spain (he is on loan at Deportivo La Coruña) and has attracted a cult following (not necessarily because it is that good; one recent headline was “how nice it is with newly washed clothes”).
Are there any players involved in politics?
Not noticeably, but the current assistant coach, Roland Andersson, protested vehemently against the Argentinian junta before the 1978 World Cup. He threatened not to go to the tournament but in the end went and filmed everything he could concerning the regime.
What will be the media coverage be like?
Swedish Channel 4 has got the rights and their pundits are normally Magnus Hedman (ex-Coventry City) and Pontus Kåmark (ex-Leicester City). They are both good and professional – but nowhere near as popular as the former Sweden international Glenn Strömberg, who works for state channel SVT and will not be commentating on games this time around. The best newspaper columnist is, without a doubt, Aftonbladet’s Simon Bank.
Will there be many fans travelling to the tournament?
Loads of fans will travel, around 30,000 at the latest estimates. Sweden were voted Fans of the Tournament at the 2006 World Cup with the highlight being 55,000 Swedes in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. 170,000 people applied for tickets. The two most popular songs are Vi är svenska fans allihopa (We are Swedish fans all of us) and In med bollen i mål (Put the ball in the goal).